Nationals ban backpacks at the ballpark

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The Washington Nationals just announced that, starting this season, fans will no longer be able to bring backpacks into the ballpark. They will make exceptions for backpack-style diaper bags or backpacks used for ADA/medical reasons. Anything else, including purses, briefcases, drawstring bags, diaper bags and soft-sided coolers have to be smaller than 16”x16”x8”.

You will not be surprised to hear that the Nationals cite “security” as the reason for this. You will also not be surprised that they do not say what kind of security risk backpacks pose in 2019 that they did not pose in 2018, 2017 or in any of the years before that. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t know someone could do bad things via a backpack at a sporting event before now. That’s why they have metal detectors and bag searches at every single ballpark these days. What has changed, exactly?

Asking around on Twitter, many have suggested to me that it’s less about there being a security threat than a security inefficiency. A few Nats fans tell me that the lines to get into the ballpark have been long in recent years and a big part of that is that bag searches take a long time. That seems to me to be more of a staffing issue than a security issue. Or perhaps a financial issue, in that the longer it takes fans to get inside the less beer and stuff will be sold. Whatever the truth of the matter is, in this country we’ve developed the habit of not questioning things when someone cites “security,” so I’d probably go with that too if I ran the Nationals.

I do know a couple of things, though. I know that a primary selling point for downtown parks like Nats Park was that people can just go from work to the ballgame during the week. That’s a bit harder now for people who don’t have time to swing home and drop off their stuff before going to the game (i.e. almost everyone).

I also know that, as we make the ballpark experience more and more like going to the airport, the less and less enjoyable it becomes.

I also know that attendance is down across the league.

But hey, security.

Shohei Ohtani agrees to $30 million deal for 2023 with Angels

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani agreed to a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2023 season in the two-way superstar’s final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency.

The Angels announced the deal, avoiding a potentially complicated arbitration case with the 2021 AL MVP.

Ohtani’s deal is fully guaranteed, with no other provisions. The contract is the largest ever given to an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $27 million given to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani is having another incredible season at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing feats that haven’t occurred in the major leagues since Babe Ruth’s heyday. He is a strong contender for the AL MVP award again alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has tied the AL home run record and is closing in on the batting Triple Crown.

Ohtani is batting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .888 OPS as the Halos’ designated hitter. He is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts as their ace on the mound, and opponents are batting only .207 against him.

The 28-year-old Ohtani still will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future could be tied to the immediate fortunes of the Angels, who will complete their seventh consecutive losing season next week. The Angels didn’t trade Ohtani at the deadline despite being out of the playoff race again, and Ohtani is wildly popular among the club’s fans.

Ohtani repeatedly has said winning will be an important factor in choosing his home beyond 2023, and Angels owner Arte Moreno is currently exploring a sale of the team.

Moreno’s leadership has been widely criticized during the Angels’ mostly miserable run of play since 2009, and a fresh start with deep-pocketed new owners could be the best chance to persuade Ohtani to stay with the franchise he joined in 2018 from Japan. Ohtani immediately won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he rounded into unique form last season after recovering fully from Tommy John surgery.